Chapter 23


“It’s done,” Christian says as he hangs up his cell phone. I’m sitting on his desk and he looks up at me. “Leila said she practically ran from the apartment.”

I nod but I’m still feeling uneasy. All the people we’ve been fighting, they’re gone. The only problem left to face is us.

“What is it, Ana?” Christian asks. “It’s over. Linc and Elena are behind bars and Rachel is out of the picture.

“I don’t know what to do now,” I say. “We’re supposed to move on from here, but I don’t know how.” His eyes darken and he looks away from me, staring down at the desk or maybe into nothing as he speaks.

“Are you going back to Escala tonight?”

“I don’t know, Christian,” I whisper.

“What do I have to do, Ana? Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I’ll give you anything, do anything. Just tell me what you want and it’s yours.”

“It’s not that simple. There isn’t a quick fix. I need to find a way to trust you again.”

“We could see Flynn,” Christian suggests.

Hm. That’s a good idea. He hasn’t been to see Flynn in months. Not since before the kidnapping, not since Teddy was born. Maybe Flynn could help us both.

“Yes, I think that’s a good idea,” I say.

“I’ll make the appointment tomorrow morning,” He replies. He stands and presses his forehead against mine. My body is aching for his touch but I don’t move.

“Stay with me tonight,” He breathes.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Christian. If I stay, we’re going to end up having sex and I don’t want us to just push these problems aside. I want us to deal with them so we can move on. I don’t want any more dark clouds hanging over us.”

“Ana,” he pleads, and I can feel his head shift slightly. He wants to kiss me and I want to kiss him, but I know where that will lead. I need to leave.

Slowly, I maneuver around him and slide off the desk. I’m walking out of the office when his voice stops me.

“Can I keep Teddy?” he asks. I turn and look at him, struggling with myself. I have had Teddy all week, but I don’t want to go back to Escala alone.

“Please, Ana,” He begs. “I’ve been alone in this house all week.”

“Okay, Christian,” I concede. “Call me in the morning.”

“I love you,” He says.

“I love you, too.”

I walk back into Escala with a heavy heart. Ryan and Sawyer have followed me home and when we emerge into the foyer, they head straight for Taylor’s office.

“Mrs. Grey?” Archer, my security guard, asks as he watches Sawyer and Ryan walk past.

“Archer. I’m bringing Mr. Grey’s team back on so I won’t be requiring your services any longer.” I reach into my purse, pull out a small white card and hand it to him. “This is Jason Taylor’s card. Give him a call. I’m sure he’s always looking for a good man.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Grey,” he says and he walks past me. I feel bad as I hear the elevator door ping. How is Christian so good at firing people?

I walk into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of wine, and as I’m staring out at the view of Seattle, I hear a loud crash and the sound of wood reverberating over the floor.

“Shit,” a voice says, and I set my glass down and walk around the counter to investigate. As I turn around the corner, I see Leila gathering items into a box and reaching out to pick up the canes that are rolling across the floor, Ryan rushes out into the living room.

“Mrs. Grey, the visitors haven’t…” He begins but stops as he realizes I can clearly see Leila standing in front of me.

“It’s okay, Ryan. I’ll call if I need anything.”

“Mrs. Grey?”

“I’m fine. Go,” I say and he turns around and disappears. I take two steps forward and bend down to pick up the canes that have rolled across the floor to me.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Grey,” Leila says, reaching out to take them from me. Her face is burning bright red. “I didn’t think you’d be home so soon.”

“Are you here by yourself?” I ask, hoping I’m not about to face the entirety of Christian’s sexual past.

“Yes,” She says. “The girls left right after Rachel did but Mr. Grey wanted all of these things gone before you got back here.”

“I see,” I say. “Can I help you?”

“No, Mrs. Grey,” She shakes her head. “This is the last of it. I’ll just see myself out.”

“Good-bye, Leila.”

“Good-bye, Mrs. Grey,” she says. She walks to the foyer but pauses and turns back to me. “I was sorry to hear about what happened to you. I know that must have been a nightmare for you and for Mr. Grey. I’m glad that he found you. It’s nice to see him happy.”

“Thank-you, Leila,” I mutter, not knowing what else to say. She nods and turns to leave. Are we happy? We were. So happy. Obliviously happy. Will we ever be there again?

I’m an emotional wreck the next morning but after our session with Flynn, I feel a little better. Christian and I have the same goals. We both want to be together in a fulfilling, passionate, nurturing relationship. We both want to be loving parents to Teddy. We just need to find a way to let go of the hurt and accept that at the end of the day, we both love each other deeply and neither one of us wants to hurt the other.

I’m not innocent in this. I’ve been blaming it all on Christian. He almost betrayed me, he contacted Elena, he went to Escala… but, just as he’s touched on those insecurities deep inside me, that I’m not enough because I can’t be a submissive to him, I’ve hit him back the same way. I have betrayed his trust as well. I think back to what he said in the session with Flynn.

Everytime it gets hard, you run.

And it’s true. When that package came, I didn’t even give him a chance to talk to me. I just stormed away and shut him out. When I found Elena’s phone, I couldn’t get away from him fast enough, and every time he tried to talk to me, I refused to listen. If I want him to earn my trust, than I need to earn his in return. No more running, Anastasia.

“Are you going back to Escala?” He asks when we’re in the parking lot outside Flynn’s office.

“No,” I say. “I think it’s time for me to come back home.”

He smiles. “Ride with me?”

“But I have my car,” I argue.

“Ryan can take it.” He motions to the SUV parked on the other side of the parking lot and Ryan gets out. I hand him my keys and climb into the front seat of the Saab while Christian buckles Teddy into the car seat behind me.

Driving down the highway to our house feels right. Christian holds my hand, rubbing his thumb over my fingers, while our baby sleeps in the back seat. This is everything I want. Right here in this car.

“What are you thinking about?” Christian asks as we pull up the driveway towards the house.

“How much I love you.”

“I love you too, baby. More than the world.”

When we walk into the house, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. I’m home with Christian and Teddy, where I belong. Christian disappears into his office and I take Teddy out to the living room, planning on putting on a movie and relaxing on the couch with Christian for the rest of the afternoon. I’m looking over the movies when I hear Christian behind me. I turn and he’s standing behind the couch looking at me, determined, but also nervous.

“What’s wrong?” I ask. He comes around the couch and holds out a CD in a blank jewel case.

“What is this I ask?” shifting Teddy so I can hold him with one arm and take the disk from him.

“This is the CCTV footage from Escala, from that morning…” He begins. “There isn’t a camera in the playroom but I thought maybe you’d like to see the rest.”

I look down in the disk in my hand. Why didn’t I think of this? Of course there is security footage. This will prove it. I’ll know for certain what happened after all. I frown and hold the disk back out from Christian.

“You don’t want to watch it?” He asks.

“No,” I say. “I want to move on. I believe you, Christian, and I’m choosing to let go of these past few weeks and move on. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and if you say nothing happened, nothing happened. I don’t need security footage.”

He smiles and wraps me in his arms, and tells me, softly, that he loves me.

“Never again will I give you a reason to doubt me, Ana.”

We spend the rest of the afternoon watching movies and playing in the back yard with Teddy. Christian and I talk like we haven’t talked in ages and we watch the sunset over the sound. We have dinner alfresco on our balcony and when it’s time to put Teddy down for the night, I stand in the doorway and watch Christian sing him to sleep. I don’t know if I could think of a more appropriate lullaby than I’ve Got You Under My Skin and my heart melts as Christian moves away from the crib and gazes at me singing, Yes I’ve got you, under my skin.

He leans down and kisses me and as I feel his love wash over me, I know we’re going to be okay.

We walk down to the living room and I pour us two glasses of wine while Christian turns on his iPod. I want to laugh as I walk into the living room and hear the familiar guitar chords of Sex on Fire by Kings of Leon.

As the tempo picks up, Christian turns around and begins “doing the twist”. I laugh and when Caleb Followill begins to sing, Christian animatedly mouths the words along with him. Oh, playful Fifty, how I’ve missed you. He dances around the living room while I giggle and when the chorus begins, I can’t help it. I’m jumping around too, lip syncing along with Christian.

He reaches out for my hand and twists me into him, holding me close as we sway back and forth. When the song ends, he doesn’t let me go.

“I love you, Anastasia,” he tells me. “Let’s never fight again.”

“No,” I say, turning around so I’m facing him. “Let’s fight all the time. Because after the fight, comes the hot make-up sex.”

“Anastasia,” he says, feigning shock.

“We have a lot of fighting to make up for,” I say. “I hope you’re up to the challenge.”

“We aim to please, Mrs. Grey.”

He scoops me up into his arms, kisses me deeply, and carries me off to our bedroom.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.